Sunday, March 4, 2012

MINAE Shore Bird Survey

Conducting the survey. Photo credit - Loraine Grant

Minae (The Ministry of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica) recently asked us to carry out a bird survey of the shore birds in the area on Sunday in order to add data from the Tortuguero ecosystem to their ever-increasing database on shore bird monitoring. We assembled four teams to go out to the different locations to carry out the surveys.

Following a brief on what was expected and how it was to be carried out, the teams set out to get started. The surveys were led by our resident bird experts, Alex and Leo. The first two teams set out early in the morning, with Leo’s team heading out along the shoreline from base camp to the river mouth and Alex’s team heading out to Parismina, a nearby town with canals and beach and a river mouth as well. The surveys were repeated again in the afternoon in the same stretches of shore, as some birds prefer the morning or afternoon, and this way we were able to cover all the birds.

A variety of shore birds seen. Photo credit - Loraine Grant

The day was definitely a success, and in the end all main bird groups were recorded, including sanderlings, sandpipers, whimbrels, egrets, tiger herons, blue herons, vultures and plovers. We were even lucky enough to watch a snowy egret eating a huge fish on the banks by the rivermouth! We also watched in anticipation as many of the shore birds came precariously close to the crocodiles which make those shores their home.

Although we were there to be recording all the bird species seen, we were all really excited when we came across some crocodile nests on the beach. Some nests had been dug and were ready for eggs to be laid. But one nest seemed to already have eggs laid in it as the sand was loose and tracks were leading to and from it. Certainly a good find but a little adrenaline-pumping since nesting crocodiles are not to be messed with or surprised!

After this distraction we got to work on the bird survey and continued with identifying and recording all the bird species and their behaviours. We recorded birds as either being in a group or individual. Groups of birds for this survey were to be classed as 20 or more of the same species together, any less than this was recorded as an individual. Behaviours recorded included eating, foraging, nesting, etc.

The final data was collated and sent back to Minae for their interpretation of the data. We all enjoyed this survey, as it was a change of atmosphere from our usual bird surveys, and we all are looking forward to seeing their final report.

-Mark and Karen, GVI interns